Adult clients with a history of early interpersonal trauma bring to their therapy memories of past events that occurred within their primary caretaking relationships. In adulthood these memories keep causing pain, but these clients are no longer dependent upon those relationships. However, when we work with children and adolescents they live with and heavily depend on their caretakers, sometimes, those who were actively involved in the child’s traumatization, sometimes former traumatized children themselves.
The child therapist’s first level of work is the child, but there is no way to work isolated from parents and caretakers: they will represent the second level of work. The treatment of these children takes place within a relational matrix including therapist, clients and clients’ caretakers; this relational matrix has the potential to trigger powerful affects that might be overlooked by therapists unless they are addressed directly.
A special focus of this workshop is how to work with adoptive parents and their adopted children when they are experiencing challenging relationship dynamics. The workshop includes case presentations that demonstrate how therapists can help when adoptive parents reject or struggle to bond with their adopted children, and what to do about the resulting mistrust and attachment wounding the child may experience.
Therapy is above all a relational process involving not only the client, but also the therapist. Therapists are human beings and their knowledge doesn’t shield them against pain and suffering.
Therapists can be triggered either by the child or by the parent, and they can, in turn, trigger either the child or the parent. The harder the issue to address, the easier it is to get triggered. Unless therapists pay attention to the powerful impact these stories and underlying issues might have on themselves, therapy won’t be effective. As part of this workshop therapists will learn to recognize their own avoidance, shame and rejection patterns in working with this population.